2021 Preview: St George Illawarra Dragons
3 hours ago | Justin Davies
Two of the NRLs biggest clubs go head-to-head to open round 20.
Both teams come into this match having struggled their way to a small win against the Newcastle Knights.
The Bulldogs are running out of chances to keep their finals hopes alive. Canterbury is tied for the third best defensive team in the competition, better than the Broncos who are tied for seventh. The problem, which has existed for multiple seasons, is their attack ranks last in the NRL. The Bulldogs have not scored more than 20 points in a match since round seven.
Up to the 74th minute against the Knights in round 18, they had scored just eight points at Josh Reynolds' Belmore farewell and Canterbury was lucky to win 20-18.
While there is clearly dissatisfaction with the production from their spine, Des Hasler receives most of the responsibility for the inability to score points. Triple M's and Fox Sports' James Hooper reported on the weekend that despite being re-signed earlier this season, Hasler may not be retained if the team loses their next three games.
The return of Brett Morris, Josh Jackson and David Klemmer from Origin should boost the team.
The Bulldogs have won just one of their seven away games this season and have lost three of their last 10 NRL matches.
Brisbane sit on the edge of the top four and had the successful return of Anthony Milford last weekend. Sam Thaiday lifted the team in the crucial stages of the Newcastle match and on Thursday we will see how his football is impacted after it was revealed the second rower will not have his playing contract renewed by the Broncos for after the 2018 season.
Josh McGuire and Matt Gillett are named to play after being rested last week.
Kodi Nikorima re-signed for an additional three seasons on Tuesday and has been named as a reserve for this clash. Tautau Moga lines up on Thursday knowing the long-time rumoured three-year contract with the Knights is now official.
The home side has won seven of their nine matches at Suncorp Stadium this season. This may be another low scoring contest which follows on from a Bulldogs 10-7 win against Brisbane earlier in the season.
The Broncos are going to be without Darius Boyd for at least another week, with Jamayne Issako to play fullback again in just his second NRL game of the season.
Both sides have selected a specialist half on the bench which normally enter midway through the second half. The experienced Benji Marshall has provided tremendous value to the Broncos this year and could once again be playing with Anthony Milford and Ben Hunt at the back end of the second half. Matthew Frawley started at hooker last week and is named on the bench this week, but Hasler may look to change the rotation again.
Last meeting: Round 5 2017 - Bulldogs 10 Broncos 7 at ANZ Stadium
On a wet Thursday night the Bulldogs recovered from a 7-0 halftime deficit. Jordan Kahu's infamous pick up of the football on a Canterbury drop out that went just five metres in the 50th minute resulted in a penalty that turned the momentum of the match. Matthew Frawley made a strong NRL debut and Brad Abbey scored the winning try in the 58th minute, playing at fullback for the injured William Hopoate.
Who to watch: The individual brilliance of James Roberts could break this match open. He's been quiet during the origin period as he's had one try since round 12, which was a gift run away try from the Knights last week. Roberts as of Tuesday is unsigned for 2018 and is in need of recapturing form.
One New South Wales player who can be satisfied with his performance in Origin three is David Klemmer. He made the most metres of any forward on the field and didn't miss a tackle. This kind of performance is desperately needed against the Broncos as Canterbury will be without James Graham. An eight day turnaround from Origin should have Klemmer ready for a big game.
The favourite: Brisbane is deservingly the favourite to win against a bottom eight side at home.
My tip: With dry conditions predicted it will support a high point scoring match for teams willing to be creative. However, the Broncos won't likely be smooth in attack with Boyd still missing and the Bulldogs aren't likely to be a better attacking side since they played the Knights. Neither side scores more than 20 points. Brisbane by 7.
21. Kodi Nikorima 2. Jonus Pearson 3. James Roberts 4. Tautau Moga 5. Jordan Kahu 6. Anthony Milford 7. Ben Hunt 8. Korbin Sims 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Adam Blair 11. Alex Glenn 12. Matt Gillett 13. Josh Mcguire 14. Sam Thaiday 15. Tevita Pangai 16. Joe Ofahengaue 17. Benji Marshall
1. William Hopoate 2. Brett Morris 3. Josh Morris 4. Chase Stanley 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Josh Reynolds 7. Moses Mbye 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Michael Lichaa 10. Danny Fualalo 11. Josh Jackson 12. Adam Elliot 13. David Klemmer 14. Sam Kasiano 15. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 16. Francis Tualau 17. Matt Frawley
Referees: Grant Atkins, Chris Sutton; Touch Judges: Michael Wise, Belinda Sleeman; Video Referee: Bernard Sutton, Luke Patten